9 tech companies improving the environment

Razer is developing recyclable controllers and IBM is using AI to power environmental research while The Map Collective connects overall carbon reduction goals.

earth-day.jpg

Image: iStockphoto

If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together, as the African proverb goes. Corporations, governments and individuals have a long way to go to reducing carbon emissions and keeping the planet livable. A key to doing that is seeing the big picture and connecting the dots from the environmental impact of supply chains all the way through to consumer habits. One company, The Map Collective, is illustrating the big picture for executives and government leaders to measure carbon footprints and recommend changes. 

Tara Gupta is the CEO and founder of the company, which provides a carbon tracking and supply chain transparency platform. Her company "contextualizes carbon" and suggests operational changes as well as new partnerships.

She wants to see companies compare individual carbon reduction goals to understand the total impact and feel more urgency.

"We are setting goals based on the global usage based on data from companies and ecosystems and how they're changing over time," she said.

SEE: IT Data Center Green Energy Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The Map Collective sets global planetary goals each year for carbon reduction. Gupta sees two steps in addressing the climate crisis:

  1. Accomplish net-zero new emissions by 2030.
  2. Undo the carbon deficit by 2050. 

The second goal reflects how much extra carbon dioxide humans have added to the atmosphere over time. Gupta used the example of a kitchen sink filling up with water from a running faucet.

"We're about at capacity if not overflowing already and people are talking about turning off the tap," she said. "What we also need to do is collectively open the drain up."

Companies can contribute to carbon easements or ecosystem repair to do that, Gupta said, potentially in the form of a self-administered carbon tax.

"If you've profited from the emissions you've created, you have some financial responsibility to help with a solution," she said.

Smartly.io is one company that has taken that approach. The marketing company worked with climate consulting firm Compensate to calculate its carbon footprint. The 2019 analysis showed that the largest source of emissions was business travel, representing 85% of Smartly.io's carbon footprint. Flights accounted for 74% of the total emissions and just under 5% was a result of indirect GHG emissions from electricity, heating and cooling across offices.

Company leaders decided that reducing emissions was not enough and started compensating the company's entire carbon footprint in 2019. Since then, Smartly.io has purchased and retired nearly 10,000 carbon credits – enabling the removal of over 6,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Gupta's company does carbon plan certifications and supply chain assessments for companies to help them assess their carbon footprint and then take actions to reduce it. She also offers a money-back guarantee if a company has not recovered the consulting fee within five years.

"We provide a 5x guarantee for return on investment, which is not common with carbon tracking but we definitely do that because we know how much cost-cutting can be had," she said. 

Gupta sees these big picture visual representations of the climate crisis as the missing piece in getting people to care about the problem. She sees documentaries about the climate crisis, maps and gamified dashboards as key to getting people to understand the scope of the problem and to take action. 

Her team develops yearly action plans for companies that want to get to net-ero new emissions by 2030. The supply chain work includes defining the emissions from tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers and looking for other issues such as the use of conflict minerals and labor issues.

She said these assessments often end up in a carbon plan for these suppliers.

"We might be able to change the way they operate and transport material which could change the larger company's footprint," she said.  

The Map Collective is working with a cannabis company, CuraLeaf to complete both certifications as well as hair care company Remane and 10power, a solar power company working in developing countries.

Gupta said the plans give people actionable steps to take as well as identifying potential partnerships.

"The timeline is compressed now and we need to achieve massive scale quite fast which requires a lot of collaboration," she said. 

SEE: Earth Day 2021: Best green gadgets, eco-focused office accessories and more (TechRepublic)

Here's a look at how big and small tech companies are using both individual and collective action to address the climate crisis.

IBM works on fifth-generation energy conservation projects

IBM announced in February that it will achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and procure 75% of the electricity it consumes worldwide from renewable sources by 2025, and 90% by 2030. Wayne S. Balta, IBM VP, corporate environmental affairs and product safety, and the company's chief sustainability officer, said both goals are respectively third and fifth generations of these plans.  

"We will continue to rely upon our decades-long, global environmental management system to drive our execution to fulfill our commitments," he said. "This will continue to be a worldwide initiative, not isolated to single locations or business units."  

He said the company has prioritized energy conservation and transitioning to renewable energy as opposed to buying renewable energy certificates or carbon offsets. 

"Every kilowatt of electricity that we do not consume avoids the emissions from becoming generated in the first place and that is why we are continuing to invest in our decades-long energy conservation program," he said. 

With the Future of Climate initiative, scientists at IBM Research will use AI to accelerate the discovery of materials, including those that may be more efficient for absorbing carbon dioxide in the air.

Razer plans recyclable products by 2030

Razer is transitioning to 100% recyclable products by 2030. This will include the disposal and recycling of Razer products for customers and global distributors and free-of-charge recycling at all global Razer retail stores. The company also works with Conservation International to save 1 million, trees and protect trees in forests in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Suriname, Brazil, Madagascar and Indonesia among many others. Razer also plans to transition to 100% renewable energy across all of their global offices by 2025, while achieving a carbon-neutral status by 2030. Razer's EU headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, operates on 100% renewable energy and the company's new Singapore office will as well. 

ManageEngine helps employees reduce their carbon consumption

ManageEngine, an IT service management company and division of Zoho Corp., pivoted to rural Texas instead of Austin when building its headquarters. Before the pandemic, the company decided to build a working farm for employees in New Braunfels, instead of building an office in the city. Now local employees no longer need to live in or commute to Austin. "Zoho Farm" has office space where employees can work as well as opportunities for employees to work in the garden and harvest crops for themselves and their families. The company has plans to expand to 10 or more locations in rural America, so other US employees can live more affordably and greener.

Rad Power Bikes promotes green transportation

Rad Power Bikes makes electric bikes to provide greener transportation options and has established business practices to reduce garbage and emissions. These practices include: 

  1. Recycle or refurbish excess metal and batteries through partnerships with organizations like One Green Planet, Call2Recycle and NOWOS.
  2. Refurbish and sell company bikes through garage sales or donations.
  3. Reduce plastic in packaging by 52% by replacing foam with corrugated cardboard, using paperboard handles and reducing the number of zip ties.
  4. Providing employees with an electric bike for commuting to the office, cruising around town, or venturing off into nature for the weekend.
  5. Making Earth Day a paid holiday for employees in the U.S. and Canada.

Amazon builds an electric delivery fleet

Electric vehicle maker Rivian is working with Amazon to test a new fleet of electric delivery vehicles. The company is installing chargers across the U.S. to support this switch to green vehicles. The current fleet of vehicles can go up to 150 miles on a single charge. Amazon started testing the electric trucks in Los Angeles in February and plans to expand to 16 more cities through this year. Along with custom electric delivery vehicles, Amazon is testing alternative fuels and delivery methods that deliver packages to customers in a more sustainable way. 

Ericsson USA 5G Smart Factory sets an example

The World Economic Forum identified the Ericsson USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, as a Fourth Industrial Revolution pioneer for its environmentally friendly design. Integrated environmental systems reduce energy consumption by 24% and indoor water use by 75%, according to the company. The factory runs on 100 percent renewable electricity.

The site is the first Ericsson factory to receive this Global Lighthouse recognition by the Forum for the adoption of 4IR technologies at scale with demonstrated benefits. The company states that the 5G automated factory with connected robots has delivered 120% improved output per employee and 65% reduction in manual material handling when compared to a similar site without its automation and 4IR improvements. Ericsson is also fast-tracking next-generation smart manufacturing through a modular and flexible production setup in factories in Estonia, China and Brazil. 

Belkin hopes to be carbon neutral in Scope 2 emissions by 2025

Belkin International is also aiming to reduce emissions and become 100% carbon neutral in Scope 2 emissions by 2025. The company is also aligning 2025 corporate goals with several of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals – climate action, responsible consumption and production, and peace, justice and strong institutions. Belkin so far has:

  • Recycled 22,667 tons of electrical and electronic devices and 8,988 tons of packaging.
  • Purchased renewable energy credits from a wind farm to offset 100% of its U.S. warehouse facility's power consumption. 
  • Reduced plastic packaging in its cable range by 90%, its wireless charging pads range by 48% and wireless charging stands range by 81%.

Honeywell aims for carbon neutrality by 2035 

Honeywell is using a mix of tactics to be carbon neutral by 2035, including investing in energy savings projects, converting to renewable energy sources, finishing capital improvement projects at its sites and in its fleet of company vehicles, and using credible carbon credits. The company has been working on sustainability projects since 2004 and claims that these efforts are responsible for a 90% reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of its operations and facilities. The company's emission reductions will be reported publicly and verified by a third party based on standards in The Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The company is addressing direct emissions and indirect emissions from electricity and steam and will soon work on Scope 3 indirect emissions, which include emissions in the supply chain.

Reducing the energy bill for data centers

Twenty-five companies and 17 associations from across Europe announced the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact: Specific steps to make data centers climate neutral by 2030.  

Apostolos Kakkos, chairman of the European Data Centre Association, said in a press release that data centers are the supporting pillars of the fourth industrial revolution and essential infrastructure of the global economy. The pact commits signatories to ensure their data centers are climate neutral by setting ambitious measurable targets for 2025 and 2030 in the following areas:

  • Prove energy efficiency with measurable targets
  • Purchase 100% carbon-free energy
  • Prioritize water conservation
  • Reuse and repair servers
  • Look for ways to recycle heat

Also see